Snow cover duration and extent for Great Britain in a changing climate: Altitudinal variations and synoptic-scale influences

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Snow cover is an important indicator of climate change but constraints on observational data quality can limit interpretation of spatial and temporal variability, especially in mountain areas. This issue was addressed using archived data from the Snow Survey of Great Britain to infer key climate relationships which were then used to reference larger-scale patterns of change. Data analysis using nonlinear (logistic) regression showed average changes in yearly snow cover were strongly related to mean temperature rather than precipitation values. Inferred change shows long-term decline in average yearly snow cover with greatest declines in some mountain areas, notably in northern England, that can be related to their position on the most temperature-sensitive segment of the logistic curve. Further declines in snow cover were projected in the future: a central ensemble projection from HadRM3 climate model showed average yearly snow cover predominantly confined to Great Britain mountain areas by the 2050s. However, inter-annual variability means some years can deviate significantly from average snow cover patterns. Site-based analysis showed this variability has distinctive geographical variations and different influences for mountains compared to adjacent valleys. Comparison of inter-annual variability with Lamb weather-type frequency and North Atlantic Oscillation index shows the influence of large-scale airflow patterns on snow cover duration. Most notable is the role of northwesterly and northerly flows in explaining snowy years on mountains exposed to that direction, compared to influence of easterly flows at lower levels. Future changes will therefore depend on dominant annual/decadal circulation patterns in addition to long-term declines from climate warming.

    Original languageEnglish
    JournalInternational Journal of Climatology
    Early online date4 Apr 2019
    DOIs
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Apr 2019

    Fingerprint

    snow cover
    climate
    mountain
    logistics
    North Atlantic Oscillation
    geographical variation
    long-term change
    data quality
    airflow
    climate modeling
    warming
    snow
    temperature
    weather
    valley
    climate change

    Keywords

    • climate change
    • Great Britain
    • Lamb weather types
    • logistic regression
    • mountains
    • snow cover
    • synoptic scale

    Cite this

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    title = "Snow cover duration and extent for Great Britain in a changing climate: Altitudinal variations and synoptic-scale influences",
    abstract = "Snow cover is an important indicator of climate change but constraints on observational data quality can limit interpretation of spatial and temporal variability, especially in mountain areas. This issue was addressed using archived data from the Snow Survey of Great Britain to infer key climate relationships which were then used to reference larger-scale patterns of change. Data analysis using nonlinear (logistic) regression showed average changes in yearly snow cover were strongly related to mean temperature rather than precipitation values. Inferred change shows long-term decline in average yearly snow cover with greatest declines in some mountain areas, notably in northern England, that can be related to their position on the most temperature-sensitive segment of the logistic curve. Further declines in snow cover were projected in the future: a central ensemble projection from HadRM3 climate model showed average yearly snow cover predominantly confined to Great Britain mountain areas by the 2050s. However, inter-annual variability means some years can deviate significantly from average snow cover patterns. Site-based analysis showed this variability has distinctive geographical variations and different influences for mountains compared to adjacent valleys. Comparison of inter-annual variability with Lamb weather-type frequency and North Atlantic Oscillation index shows the influence of large-scale airflow patterns on snow cover duration. Most notable is the role of northwesterly and northerly flows in explaining snowy years on mountains exposed to that direction, compared to influence of easterly flows at lower levels. Future changes will therefore depend on dominant annual/decadal circulation patterns in addition to long-term declines from climate warming.",
    keywords = "climate change, Great Britain, Lamb weather types, logistic regression, mountains, snow cover, synoptic scale",
    author = "Iain Brown",
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    N2 - Snow cover is an important indicator of climate change but constraints on observational data quality can limit interpretation of spatial and temporal variability, especially in mountain areas. This issue was addressed using archived data from the Snow Survey of Great Britain to infer key climate relationships which were then used to reference larger-scale patterns of change. Data analysis using nonlinear (logistic) regression showed average changes in yearly snow cover were strongly related to mean temperature rather than precipitation values. Inferred change shows long-term decline in average yearly snow cover with greatest declines in some mountain areas, notably in northern England, that can be related to their position on the most temperature-sensitive segment of the logistic curve. Further declines in snow cover were projected in the future: a central ensemble projection from HadRM3 climate model showed average yearly snow cover predominantly confined to Great Britain mountain areas by the 2050s. However, inter-annual variability means some years can deviate significantly from average snow cover patterns. Site-based analysis showed this variability has distinctive geographical variations and different influences for mountains compared to adjacent valleys. Comparison of inter-annual variability with Lamb weather-type frequency and North Atlantic Oscillation index shows the influence of large-scale airflow patterns on snow cover duration. Most notable is the role of northwesterly and northerly flows in explaining snowy years on mountains exposed to that direction, compared to influence of easterly flows at lower levels. Future changes will therefore depend on dominant annual/decadal circulation patterns in addition to long-term declines from climate warming.

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